Questions to Ask Your Surgeon About Breast Reconstruction

If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer and are considering breast reconstruction, it’s important to find out as much as you can about what to expect. Your breast surgeon can help you find a plastic surgeon who should be able to explain all of your choices and answer your questions. Here are some questions to ask to help get you started. Be sure you get all of your questions answered, so that you can make the best decisions for you about breast reconstruction.

Finding the right plastic surgeon for your breast reconstruction

If you decide to have breast reconstruction, it is best to find an experienced board-certified plastic surgeon. Your breast surgeon can suggest doctors for you. To find a board-certified plastic surgeon in your area, or to find out if your surgeon is board certified, contact the American Board of Plastic Surgeons.

Getting a second opinion

You might want to get a second opinion before having surgery, so you know all of your options before reconstruction surgery, or even mastectomy. It’s important for you to make the right decisions based on complete information.

Questions to ask about breast reconstruction

It’s very important to get all of your questions answered by your plastic surgeon before having breast reconstruction. If you don’t understand something, ask your surgeon about it. You might want to take notes or bring a partner or friend with you to the doctor's appointment to help remember what was said and to help ask other questions.

Here are some questions to get you started. Write down other questions as you think of them. The answers to these questions may help you make your decisions.

  • Can I have breast reconstruction?
  • When can the reconstruction be done?
  • What are the reasons for and against doing it at the same time as my cancer surgery (immediate reconstruction) versus waiting (delayed reconstruction)?
  • Will reconstruction interfere with chemotherapy?
  • Will reconstruction interfere with radiation therapy?
  • What types of reconstruction could I have?
  • What are the risks and benefits of each option?
  • What type of reconstruction do you think would be best for me? Why?
  • What’s the average cost of each type? Will my insurance cover them?
  • How long would it take me to recover from each type?
  • How many of these procedures have you (plastic surgeon) done each year?
  • What results can I expect?
  • Will the reconstructed breast look like my other breast?
  • Should I consider surgery on the other breast also to help them look alike?
  • Could I have the nipple reconstructed if I choose to? How would this be done?
  • How will my reconstructed breast(s) feel to the touch? Will I have any feeling in my reconstructed breast(s)?
  • What possible problems should I know about?
  • If using a tissue flap, will there be pain, scars, or other changes in the parts of my body where the tissue is taken from?
  • If using a tissue flap, will you also need to place an implant to give the reconstructed breast a better shape? 
  • If I get a breast implant, how long will it last?
  • What type of implant will you use for my reconstructed breast---smooth or textured? Saline or silicone?
  • Will I need to get extra imaging tests depending on the type of implant I get? Will my insurance cover those extra tests?
  • What kinds of changes to the breast can I expect over time?
  • Will I need more surgery in a few years because of possible complications? 
  • How will aging affect the reconstructed breast?
  • How will I know if the implant is ruptured?
  • Are there any new reconstruction options that I should know about, including clinical trials?
  • Can you show me pictures of typical results?
  • Can I talk with other women who have had the same surgery?

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Breast Reconstruction. Accessed at https://www.plasticsurgery.org/reconstructive-procedures/breast-reconstruction on August 6, 2021.

Ananthakrishnan P, Lucas A. Options and considerations in the timing of breast reconstruction after mastectomy. Cleve Clin J Med. 2008;75 Suppl 1:S30-33.

De La Cruz L, Blankenship SA, Chatterjee A, et al. Outcomes after oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery in breast cancer patients: A systematic literature review. Annals of Surgical Oncology. 2016; 23(10):3247-3258.

Farhangkhoee H, Matros E, Disa J. Trends and concepts in post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. J Surg Oncol. 2016;113(8):891–894.

Jagsi R, Jiang J, Momoh AO, et al. Trends and variation in use of breast reconstruction in patients with breast cancer undergoing mastectomy in the United States. J Clin Oncol. 2014;32(9):919–926.

Jagsi R, King TA, Lehman C, Morrow M, Harris JR, Burstein HJ. Chapter 79: Malignant Tumors of the Breast. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019.

Mehrara BJ, Ho AY. Breast Reconstruction. In: Harris JR, Lippman ME, Morrow M, Osborne CK, eds. Diseases of the Breast. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2014.

Nahabedian MY. Factors to consider in breast reconstruction. Womens Health (2015) 11(3), 325–342.

National Cancer Institute. Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy. 2017. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/reconstruction-fact-sheet on August 6, 2021.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Breast Cancer. Version 5.2021. Accessed at https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/breast.pdf on August 6, 2021.

US Food and Drug Administration. Breast Implant Surgery. Updated March 31, 2021. Accessed at https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/breast-implants/breast-implant-surgery on August 6, 2021.

US Food and Drug Administration. Things to Consider Before Getting Breast Implants. Updated September 28, 2019. Accessed at https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/breast-implants/things-consider-getting-breast-implants on August 6, 2021.

References

American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Breast Reconstruction. Accessed at https://www.plasticsurgery.org/reconstructive-procedures/breast-reconstruction on August 6, 2021.

Ananthakrishnan P, Lucas A. Options and considerations in the timing of breast reconstruction after mastectomy. Cleve Clin J Med. 2008;75 Suppl 1:S30-33.

De La Cruz L, Blankenship SA, Chatterjee A, et al. Outcomes after oncoplastic breast-conserving surgery in breast cancer patients: A systematic literature review. Annals of Surgical Oncology. 2016; 23(10):3247-3258.

Farhangkhoee H, Matros E, Disa J. Trends and concepts in post-mastectomy breast reconstruction. J Surg Oncol. 2016;113(8):891–894.

Jagsi R, Jiang J, Momoh AO, et al. Trends and variation in use of breast reconstruction in patients with breast cancer undergoing mastectomy in the United States. J Clin Oncol. 2014;32(9):919–926.

Jagsi R, King TA, Lehman C, Morrow M, Harris JR, Burstein HJ. Chapter 79: Malignant Tumors of the Breast. In: DeVita VT, Lawrence TS, Lawrence TS, Rosenberg SA, eds. DeVita, Hellman, and Rosenberg’s Cancer: Principles and Practice of Oncology. 11th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2019.

Mehrara BJ, Ho AY. Breast Reconstruction. In: Harris JR, Lippman ME, Morrow M, Osborne CK, eds. Diseases of the Breast. 5th ed. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer Health; 2014.

Nahabedian MY. Factors to consider in breast reconstruction. Womens Health (2015) 11(3), 325–342.

National Cancer Institute. Breast Reconstruction After Mastectomy. 2017. Accessed at https://www.cancer.gov/types/breast/reconstruction-fact-sheet on August 6, 2021.

National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN). Practice Guidelines in Oncology: Breast Cancer. Version 5.2021. Accessed at https://www.nccn.org/professionals/physician_gls/pdf/breast.pdf on August 6, 2021.

US Food and Drug Administration. Breast Implant Surgery. Updated March 31, 2021. Accessed at https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/breast-implants/breast-implant-surgery on August 6, 2021.

US Food and Drug Administration. Things to Consider Before Getting Breast Implants. Updated September 28, 2019. Accessed at https://www.fda.gov/medical-devices/breast-implants/things-consider-getting-breast-implants on August 6, 2021.

Last Revised: October 20, 2021

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